Unpermitted work 35 years ago discovered now

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Unpermitted work 35 years ago discovered now

We recently found out that a very large addition that was put on our house 35 years ago was not permitted. The house has been through 2 full sales and 5 refinances. The towns assessors office has the full square footage and bedrooms/bathrooms listed correctly and it has been taxed for at least 30 years. We bought the house as a normal sale, used a realtor and lawyers for the closing. No one, including the appraiser mentioned any issues. The person we bought the house from was not the owner who put on the addition. What legal recourse do we have? The cost associated with upgrades to current codes could be in the 10’s of thousands of dollars, which could put us in a bankruptcy situation.

Asked on December 11, 2016 under Real Estate Law, Connecticut

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

You don't appear to have any recourse but to bring the addition to code or to knock it down properly and take it out of consideration. The problem for you is: 
1) The current owner of a home is responsible for ensuring its code compliance. Sometimes he or she can sue a prior owner for compensation, but regardless of whether he/she can or cannot, he/she must--and is the one who must pay for--bringing the property to code.
2) The prior owner does not appear to have had any reason to know or believe the addition was not to code: he or she did not put the addition on, and based on what you write, it does not appear likely that there were otherwise aware (and more importantly, that you could prove they were otherwise aware) of the lack of permits. If they did not know of the problem, they did not fail to dislose the issue--people can only disclose what they know or logically must know. If they did not fail to disclose, then they did not commit fraud--and fraud would be on the only basis for seeking compensation from them.
3) The owner before them has no duty to you, because they did not have a contract with, sell to, etc. you--they have no relationship to you and so are not liable to you for anything, even if they had been at fault (such as by not getting permits). Also, based on the timeline you describe, it is probably too late (past the statute of limitations) to sue this person anyway...therefore, you cannot get compensation from this person.


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